Further reflections on Maryland soccer, lacrosse, football, the NCAA, the ACC and the Big Ten


It does not take a genius to understand that the Big Ten is moving its trademark from Big Ten to BIG (with the “g” made up of a partial zero and inward “g” mark for a reason.

Nov 24, 2012; Chapel Hill, NC, USA; Maryland Terrapins head coach Randy Edsall with North Carolina Tar Heels head coach Larry Fedora after the game. The Tar Heels defeated the Terrapins 45-38 at Kenan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-US PRESSWIRE

They intend to get bigger. Jumping on Maryland, a school fraught with financial difficulties because of an overreaching university seeking to become a football powerhouse with suites like in the pros but failing miserably, is just the start. Rumors abound that they could go right down the coast. When I first saw Coach K’s comments about the ACC being in trouble, I thought “What a jerk, always seeking the limelight. This simply cannot be true.” Yet, the ACC could be in trouble.

The BIG wants to shorten the name to extend its mark and making it just BIG is a senseless trademark quest. You cannot control “BIG” as a mark given its use by so many conferences, and stylizing it does not make it sufficiently different.

In the same vein, trying to convince schools that there is a pot of gold waiting just around the corner is really senseless. Things change, and the coming changes in college football and all other college sports will radically change the monetary equation.

Len Elmore’s tensions between old-time relationships and rivalries and the money game are real. “The grass is always greener” will slowly change this decision from being right to being wrong. And the near mass hysteria will be wiped out by ACC successes far in excess of what the aging Midwest can achieve.

One major reason for this is the sales value to media markets of the BIG itself. They have certainly cranked out a lot of alumni, including graduate school types. And alliances do change. I find myself now rooting for Notre Dame. I used to root against them.

But I would never root for Maryland any more. Nor Indiana. Much less watch BIG football. I used to watch Nebraska. No more.

You see, I went to law school at Indiana, but by then I was a died in the wool Tar Heel. And even though I detested Jessie Helms who I had to listen to from time to time and was clearly not a Southerner, my allegiance was to Dean Smith and UNC. I remain convinced that the best basketball I have ever heard or seen was during a 1966 or 1967 ACC championship game when Carolina won by around 28 to 24. Forget about the shot clock. That game, every shot, every rebound, every turnover counted.

BIG graduate schools are filled with ACC, SEC, and PAC 10 and 12 alums. They are unlikely fans. Ever.

So, is there a mass market for BIG football?

Perhaps. But there are also many fans who have no interest in college football. They only watch the pros. Like my son.

We will find out today who is better in basketball. There is no doubt but that the odds favor BIG this year, yet again.

But BIG basketball is certainly no bigger a revenue producer than ACC basketball and over the years both will continue to be potent revenue producers.

It is the next few weeks that we get a glimpse of what BIG is really seeking. And in the Spring. And so far the ACC is far ahead.

This weekend, Indiana, a perennial favorite in men’s soccer, tries to push through the Tar Heels to the final four for Division 1 soccer. Some favor the sixteenth seeded Indiana. Look for ninth seeded UNC to win. It is looking more and more like this Tar Heels team is a team of destiny.

Soccer will continue to improve as a revenue sport, as will many others just expanding.

The NACDA Learfield Sports Directors’ Cup is given annually to the NCAA schools in each division that are the most successful in collegiate sports.

Should the Tar Heels win men’s soccer, it will continue its nearly unparalleled excellence in overall sports. Only Stanford, which has won this award an unbelievable eighteen times in a row, is better.

But the PAC 12 is little better than the ACC in overall NCAA sports wins during the past ten years. In a testament to near parity, PAC 12 teams and ACC teams over the last ten years have had between three and four teams among the top 10 each year.  BIG trails both badly in top ten finishes.

These are the sports that will continue to capture an increasing portion of everyone’s attention. Three more have had their tournaments increase in size this year, including women’s lacrosse and rowing.

And while the SEC has had top 10 finishes, it is far behind all three conferences.

So, instead of football and basketball, two sports in which Maryland did not and are not likely to succeed, what about overall athletic improvement by adding Maryland?

Maryland has never been in the top ten for the Directors’ Cup, although it has some teams including its second seeded men’s soccer team that is the odds on favorite to win the tournament this year.

And it has another team, its women’s lacrosse team, that is poised to continue to compete for national titles in that sport as well. Apart from Northwestern, the recent powerhouse in this sport, Maryland has no peer.

While it has been said that the $50 million exit fee is critical to the continuation of the ACC, this should play little if any role in the future of the ACC.

What remains is that the institutions in the ACC are the best universities academically in the country. And, despite deep pockets in endowment which are shared by Northwestern and Duke, only Duke along with USC and Stanford have the fortitude and good management to have regularly competed among the top ten for the NACDA Learfield Sports Directors’ Cup.

Academic institutions are about this and much more. Sure, we would like to get more money in football. And we will. Because another thing is also at play.


As the Carolinas, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Texas, Ohio and Pennsylvania continue to produce high school players, they will also seek other things beyond the so-called money sports including allegedly non-revenue sports.

And more football players will drop into the ACC. Sure, they want to go pro. And many will.

In fact, the ACC is gaining in football even as this latest Maryland fiasco gains visibility.

According to ESPN’s poll of the 2013 football recruiting class, the ACC has six teams in the top 30 and four in the top 15 if you exclude top 5 Notre Dame which is for all intents and purposes an ACC football school with a few less games. Only the SEC compares, with ten in the top 30 and seven in the top 15. With Notre Dame, this makes the ACC seven out of the top 30 and five in the top fifteen, nearly the same as the SEC.

The BIG? Only two in the top 15 and four in the top 30. BIG is losing ground. Quickly. So a raid was an imperative. And surely BIG tried to get other ACC teams. Only Maryland was vulnerable.

So much for that talent rich BIG and its mastery of football. In a few years, the ACC will reign over the BIG. Mark my words.

In fact, for you fans, we can well-remember only a few years ago the ACC being far down the ladder in football recruiting. Now the ACC is at the top.

So, what is it about the argument with the $50 million anyway?

For this issue, let’s go to the movement of sports to women and lesser so-called non-revenue sports. And the NCAA.

It would be interesting if the NCAA began to assert more control over the conferences. But their position is correct from many levels. The strength of competition will sort everything out.

And football is just a part of the puzzle.

In fact, if you feel that Maryland against Wisconsin is a good game, or that the Iowa and Nebraska games will be packed with fans, my bet is that you are wrong.

And if Maryland and Rutgers do not succeed in the BIG, who will have them and who will join the BIG next?

The fact is that sports and colleges are meaningful in part because of the college atmosphere and alumni. Alumni like Len Elmore who have the heart and soul of the University of Maryland in mind. Not Maryland alumni like the founder and CEO of UnderArmour, whose major interest is in selling his sporting clothing to the BIG and others and who believes it will have a stronger media presence than the ACC.

Universities are not sloppy efforts to make sporting money. They make sporting money because their alumni want their teams to win because they were students at these institutions. Lucrative contracts with the media come because of this. The media is interested in the product being sold.

And if there is an improving product, it is not BIG. Just looking at the schools they took makes this absolutely clear. It is the ACC.

The ACC will be making more money that the BIG over time.

And all this leaves aside the unbelievable $200 million more that the University of Maryland is telling their alumni they will make with the move from the ACC.


And I have Interstate 90 I want to sell you too. It will just be a cool $100 million, leaving you a profit of $100 million even if the highway goes bust.